Stabilizer Muscles - What Are the Stabilizer Muscles During Exercise?

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Getty Images/Tatiana Kolesnikova

You've probably heard the term 'stabilizer muscles' when it comes to exercise.  It makes sense, when you think about it, that while one muscle works, others have to work in a more isometric way to stabilize the body.

That's what these muscles do:  They act to stabilize one joint so a desired movement can be performed in another joint. These muscles usually aren't directly involved in a movement, but work to keep you steady so that your primary muscles can do their job.

For example, if you were doing a chest press on an exercise ball, the primary muscles working include the chest and triceps, but the abs, back and legs work isometrically to stabilize your body.

How to Increase Your Stability

If you're a beginning exerciser, balance and stability may be a challenge, which is a great reason to focus on these areas of fitness before moving on to more challenging workouts.

There's a natural progression of stability, depending on where you're starting:

  1. Do the exercises seated - While you're seated, you have support for your lower body, so you don't have to work as hard to stabilize.
  2. Do the exercises while standing - As soon as you stand, you involve the entire body in the exercise because you've taken away any support.  Now your body has to support itself while you do the exercise.
  3. Stand in a wide stance - When you stand in a wide stance, you increase your base of support, making you feel more balanced and stable.
  1. Stand in a narrow stance - Bring your feet  closer and you'll feel less stable, thus triggering your stabilizer muscles to kick in.
  2. Stagger your feet - The next progression is to stand in a staggered position, with one foot just a bit behind the other. 
  3. Split Stance - Now try standing in a split stance where one foot is in front of the other, feet are about 3 or so feet apart.  You'll recognize this as a lunge position, one of the world's favorite exercises.  Not.
  1. Tandem Stance - This is like standing on a balance beam, with one foot in front of the other.  Try doing an exercise in this position and you'll really challenge your balance.
  2. Stand on One Leg - The final progression is to stand on one leg while exercising.  You'll notice that every muscle in the body will contract to help keep your balance.

Balance and Stability Exercises

Want to increase balance and stability?  The only way is to work on it on a regular basis.  Here are some exercises that will do just that:

Incorporating those exercises into your usual routine is a great way to work on your balance while also working on strength, endurance and flexibility.

Now, what about workouts?  I have some great workouts using a variety of balance and stability gear that will help you work on balance, stability and core strength....all things that will strengthen your stabilizer muscles as well as increasing your coordination.

Balance and Stability Workouts

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